A major part of western culture wants your attention badly, and right now. Constant stimulations in the form of advertisements, social media posts (likely how you ended up here…), notifications and text messages are inescapable if you live the average life in western culture. They’re also very, very distracting. Furthermore, an overarching message of our times is to indulge, have what you want, take more. I think this message may be contradictory to the goals many of us have for ourselves though, such as being healthy and fit, having time with friends and family, feeling calm, and being excellent at a chosen vocation. Here’s what I tell myself to keep moving forward when I feel overwhelmed by external and, as a result, internal stimulation:
Urges and cravings don’t matter. Actions do.
What does that mean? It means that we all feel urges and cravings all the time, and that’s ok. Sometimes I crave a third cup of coffee. Sometimes my hormones are raging through the roof. Sometimes I want a whole cake. Sometimes I want to binge watch TV and not write music. Sometimes I want to drink until I forget. None of that matters. It doesn’t matter because my lot in life, the well being of my family and friends and the world at large are not affected by these urges. However, all of the above are affected by my actions to these urges. I can have my third cup of coffee, get a little too cranked on caffeine and then have a crash right when I’m supposed to help my partner with his writing, annoying both myself and him to no end. Or I can choose to have a big glass of water and help my body and brain come down gently from the two cups I’ve already had. The point is that these cravings aren’t you, and they don’t have to control you. They don’t feed into your goals and dreams for yourself. So how do you manage your day when these cravings seem incessant until you give into them? Maybe an obvious solution is to try and ignore the craving and just keep focused on what you’re trying to do. In my experience however, this isn’t a very good idea. Ignoring cravings doesn’t make them go away. Instead, try this:
- Although it seems contrary, acknowledge the craving and let it happen fully. Maybe even say “Hello [caffeine] craving. I feel you.” out loud or in your head. The craving wants your attention, so give it.
- Pause. For just a minute or two (or as long as you like) and take some time to feel the sensations of the craving. Is there a hollow feeling in your stomach? Tightness in your chest? Buzzing in your head? Tingling in your feet? Maybe all of these things or something else. Open yourself to feeling them. No need to suppress them or change them. You will notice that the feeling is not static; it’s not just one sensation, but many that are in constant flux, always moving. Let this assure you that the craving will pass, just like all other feelings and emotions.
- Ask why. Why do I not want to have a third cup? “because I don’t want to feel a crash later, and I want to have more energy without relying on coffee.” Turning a chore into a meaningful activity gives us control over the situation instead of feeling helpless to a craving. Further, if it’s a craving you really want to change or end long term, question the reasons for it. Why am I feeling this craving? “because I’m coming down from my caffeine buzz from two cups.” Ask again; Why did I drink two cups today? “because I woke up feeling tired.” Again; Why did I wake up tired? “because I am wide awake at night with my mind racing” In this situation, it becomes clear that I need to work on my headspace before I sleep so that I can get better sleep. This will help me avoid coffee during the days.
- Choose an action. You may choose to have water, to get a little exercise, or even to have that third cup. The important part is that you choose your action, not simply give in to a craving. Once you choose, do not berate yourself for your choice, but simply take notice of the effects your choice has. You can use this information to answer your why questions next time.
Having control and a sense of autonomy in our lives is essential to feeling happy with ourselves and our lives. If you begin to look more closely at your present experience, you can begin to find that you have the power to make choices to actions that favour your goals for yourself.
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